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Watch: Young people in Armagh and Afghanistan join together in music

Music prevails! Over the past three months an unprecedented music collaboration has been happening involving young musicians from Northern Ireland and Afghanistan.

Despite CoVid-19 and security challenges there has been no half measures to fulfil an ambitious vision to create three shared music productions.

At the helm, a team of producers and logistic managers have enabled the young musicians to record and perform together resulting in a series of music videos with accompanying visual diaries documenting the journey.

The project is part of a wider partnership that was started between the organisations Beyond Skin Northern Ireland and Afghanistan National Institute of Music when both Directors Dr Ahmad Sarmast and Darren Ferguson met at the Batuta International Seminar on Music and Social Transformation conference in Bogota, Colombia in 2016.

Over the past three years there has been various Northern Ireland Afghanistan shared activities with Dr Ahmad Sarmast visiting Northern Ireland in 2017.

Educational workshops exploring Afghan culture have also taken place in Northern Ireland with youth groups facilitated by partners Yallaa & Unique New Adventure Ltd.

This year the Traditional Arts Partnership South Armagh have joined the consortium with young women from their network participating in the music productions along with members from the Afghan Women’s Orchestra, also known as Zohra Ensemble.

The project has been supported by private donors with The WOMAD Foundation and Arts Council Northern Ireland & Factor Law as principal funders.

Mandy Adams, a Trustee of the WOMAD Foundation, commented: “The WOMAD Foundation is so proud to have supported this wonderful collaboration across continents that has taken place in spite of all the adversities that we face today. To see young girls playing music that reflects their separate Irish and Afghani cultural heritages and also creates a seamless uplifting whole, affirms the universality of music and human experience. It is tremendously powerful.”

Gilly Campbell, Head of Community Arts & Education, Arts Council of Northern Ireland added: “The Arts Council of Northern Ireland is proud to support Beyond Skin with this wonderful international collaboration project, thanks to National Lottery players.

“We know that music and the arts bring people and communities closer together and I’d like to congratulate Darren at Beyond Skin and everyone involved and look forward to seeing the music videos created by these impressive young musicians very soon.”

The first of the videos was released as part of the One World Festival Northern Ireland 17th October and 18th October for Share Music Day Japan TV and Youtube broadcast managed by Min-On Music Concert Association & Min-On Music Research Institute

Darren Ferguson CEO of Beyond Skin said: “Do not underestimate the vast achievement producing these music videos. I cannot commend the production, logistic team and all the musicians enough for navigating through many challenges during a global pandemic and when security risks for the young girls in Kabul are still very real. I am immensely proud of this collaborative triumph.”

Director of Afghanistan National Institute of Music Dr Ahmad Sarmast commented: “This collaboration between young musicians from Afghanistan and Northern Ireland, in a time that peace talks on Afghanistan is well underway and it might lead to the return of the Taliban back to power, is significant in rising awareness about the future of music in Afghanistan, given the past draconian policies of the Taliban against music .

“Taliban did not only violate the musical rights of the Afghan people, but banned music entirely and the people of Afghanistan were not allowed to listen, learn or play music.”

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